Northam earmarks $25M to redo Richmond’s Monument Avenue, other initiatives in budget

FILE — This July 10, 2020 file photo shows the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed 2021 budget will include nearly $25 million for projects that will reexamine the commonwealth’s history with slavery, this time without centering slaveholders and the Confederacy.

Some of the projects include overhauling Richmond’s Monument Avenue, developing a Slavery Heritage Site in the state’s capital city and preserving historical areas, among others.

Northam’s office said in a Friday news release that the initiatives would “help Virginia tell the true story of our past and continue building an inclusive future … at a time when this commonwealth and country are grappling with how to present a more complete and honest picture of our complex history.”

The proposed budget puts $11 million toward reshaping Monument Avenue, Richmond’s historical section built around multiple Confederate statues. The area was a flashpoint during widespread protests after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, leading to the removal of seven statues this year.

The state-owned statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is expected to be removed in 2021. Northam had ordered the statue removed over the summer, but lawsuits blocked its immediate removal. In October, a judge ruled in favor of Northam’s plans and opened a path for the statue’s removal.  

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will launch a community-driven initiative to redesign the area.

Northam’s budget also includes $9 million for developing a Slavery Heritage Site and improvements to sites in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom neighborhood; $5 million to repatriate tombstones from the former Columbian Harmony Cemetery in D.C.; and $100,000 to support the Virginia Emancipation and Freedom Monument project on Brown’s Island.

Northam will present his full budget to the state’s Joint Money Committees on Dec. 16.

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